This study was done to define the relationship between age at the time of surgery and the prognosis after curative resection for patients with an early gastric cancer. Three hundred and eighty-two patients were identified and 25 patients died of tumour recurrence. Overall, the cumulative survival rate was 94.9% at 5 years and 92.4% at 10 years. Patients with a recurrence of the gastric cancer tended to be older, were more likely to have large differentiated type of tumour and lymph node metastases were often present. Stratified into age-classified groups, the survival rate decreased with increase of age (for patients under age 34 years, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, 55 to 64, 65 to 74, over age 75 years, the 5-year survival rates were 100.0, 97.7, 97.6, 94.2, 94.1 and 84.4 (%]. Of the 25 patients with a tumour recurrence and who died, the survival time of 18 patients over age 55 years was significantly shorter than that of seven patients under age 54 years (median, 1.7 vs 5.6 years, P less than 0.05). The multivariate analysis showed that, over and above the differentiated type of tumour (P less than 0.01) and the presence of lymph node metastases (P less than 0.01), age was one of the prognostic factors (P less than 0.05). We conclude that age at the time of primary surgery is a significant factor in patients with an early gastric cancer.